The Churches and Convents of Goa

The city Velha Goa (Old Goa)–originally known as Goa–lies in the west Indian state Goa on the left bank of the the river Mandovi. Velha Goa was earlier the capital of the Portuguese colony in India.

Vehla Goa is a very old Hindu city and served as a port for the Hindu kingdoms of Vijayanagar and Bahamani. In 1510 A.D., it came under the rule of the Portuguese, who established it in its today’s condition and made it their administrative seat. With more than 250,000 inhabitants, Goa was once larger than Lisbon or Paris. After malaria epidemics broke out during the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century (especially in the year 1738), the majority of the population abandoned the city and moved into that time’s suburb Panaji. It was then that the viceroy moved the administrative seat of Portuguese India to Panaji, which served as the capital of the Portuguese Colony until 1843. The current capital Panaji simultaneously became known as Nova Goa (“New Goa “) and the Vehla Goa (“Old Goa “) lost its importance (the name was preserved however until today).

Velha Goa, which was named the “Rome of the Orient” today still has many houses that feature the imposing Portuguese colonial architecture. The churches and convents of Vehla Goa were nominated in 1986 by UNESCO to its World Heritage List. Foreign tourists and Indian pilgrims flock nowadays to Velha Goa not only to admire the gigantic facades and gilded altars of the well preserved churches, but to make pilgrimage to the grave of the holy St. Francis Xavier. He was the famous missionary of the 16th century, whose mortal remnants are stored in the Basilica of Bom Jesus (built in 1695). The corpse of St. Francis even after so many years shows no traces of the decay.

Among the best-known monuments found in Velha Goa include:

  • The cathedral Se Cathedral, established in 1511 by Alfonso de Albuquerque, which is also the largest building of the city
  • The Basilica Bom Jesus, the grave of the holy Francis Xavier
  • The cloister of the holy Francis of Assisi (in the year 1661 rebuilt mosque)
  • The church St. Cajetan, a small edition of the St. Peter’s Dom in Rome